Mouth-watering Christmas appetizers

Everyone loves appetizers, whether a simple nibble before a meal or a spread of assorted treats to tantalize over an entire evening. The holiday season is certainly an opportunity to indulge in these savoury bites.

If you are planning a party or just having a few friends over, new ideas are always welcome. The best part is although they are scrumptious to eat, they can be prepared in advance for frazzle-free entertaining. Thank you Foodland Ontario for these mouth-watering suggestions.

Warm Brie with Caramelized Topping

Warm Brie with this stunning topping of caramelized onions, apple and sherry-laced cranberries hits the spot with guests.

Serve with sliced baguette to mop up all the ooey-gooey goodness!

2 onions, sliced into 1/3 inch (8 mm) thick slices
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
2 tsp (10 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) dried cranberries
1/4 cup (60 mL) dry sherry or port
1/2 cup (125 mL) diced apple
1 wheel (450 g) double cream Brie cheese

Cut onions in half through root end then into 1/3 inch (8 mm) slices. In large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add onions, separating as you add. Sprinkle with sugar and salt; cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes, reducing heat if starting to brown. For the onions to reach maximum sweetness, cook long and slow!

Meanwhile, combine cranberries and sherry in small microwaveable bowl; microwave on high for one minute. Stir, cover and set aside.

Add apples to onions. Cook, stirring often, until apple is tender and onions are golden, about 25 minutes. Stir in cranberries and any remaining sherry that has not been absorbed. (Mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to four days.)

To serve: Place Brie on shallow ovenproof serving dish. Spoon onion mixture on Brie and spread almost to edge. Loosely tent with foil. Bake in 350°F (180°C) until Brie sides feel warm to touch, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with sliced baguette. Makes enough for 16 slices.

Crispy Mushroom Phyllo Rolls

The contrast between buttery crisp paper-thin phyllo and sumptuous mushrooms is irresistible. Although impressive in appearance, these rolls are easy to make.

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
8 oz (250 g) mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped shallots
1 tsp (5 mL) dried tarragon
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley
6 sheets phyllo pastry
3 tbsp (45 mL) coarsely chopped fresh parsley

In large skillet, melt 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, tarragon and salt; cook, stirring often until mushrooms seem dry, about 10 minutes.

Turn into bowl. Stir in cheese and ¼ cup (60 mL) chopped parsley. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to two days.)

For Rolls: Melt remaining 6 tbsp (90 mL) butter. Lay one phyllo sheet on work surface with long end closest to you. Cover remaining phyllo with damp tea towel to prevent drying out. Using pastry brush, lightly brush phyllo sheet with butter. Scatter about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the coarsely chopped parsley on top of the phyllo sheet. Top with another phyllo sheet and brush with butter.

Cut pastry sheets vertically into three 5-inch (12 cm) wide strips. Discard leftover thin strips. Mound about 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the filling one inch (2.5 cm) from bottom of one strip. Pat filling into log shape, leaving ½-inch (1 cm) phyllo border on both sides. Fold in both long sides of phyllo strip, about ½-inch (1 cm) wide, bringing them up and over filling ends. Lightly brush folded sides with butter. Fold bottom edge of phyllo strip over filling and roll up. Brush roll with butter ad place seam side down on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat process twice more making nine rolls. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm; serves four.

Tourtiere Meatballs with Maple-Cranberry Glaze

Tourtiere meatballs have all the flavour of the famous Tourtiere, the savoury French Canadian meat pie always served during the Christmas season. Sweet and spicy, they have a luscious cranberry maple glaze to add to their festive taste.

For ease the meatballs may be made up to three days ahead or frozen for longer storage. Re-heat as directed below.

8 oz (250 g) mushrooms
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped onion
1 ½ lb (750 g) lean ground beef
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) each, dried sage leaves, thyme leaves and
Celery salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, ground allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg
3/4 cup (175 mL) packed mashed potato (1 potato)

1 cup (250 mL) smooth jellied cranberry sauce
1/4 cup (50 mL) each, barbecue sauce and water
2 tbsp (25 mL) maple syrup

In food processor, pulse mushrooms and onion until evenly ground, stopping often to scrape down side. (Alternatively, you may chop mushrooms and onions very finely). Place mushroom-onion mixture in large bowl; add beef, sage, thyme, celery salt, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add potato; mix well with your hands. Shape into approximately 42 meatballs, (1 1/2 inch/ 3 cm).

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Arrange meatballs on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in oven about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and brown. Let stand on baking sheet about three minutes. Remove to large serving bowl.

Glaze: In saucepan over medium heat combine cranberry sauce, barbecue sauce, maple syrup and water. Cook stirring often until jelly is melted and sauce is smooth. If desired for a thinner sauce, add water a tablespoon (15 mL) at a time. Pour glaze over meatballs and stir gently to coat. Serve warm with toothpicks. Makes 42 meatballs.

Make-Ahead Meatballs: Bake and cool meatballs on baking sheets; refrigerate in sealed container up to three days or freeze. Warm meatballs in microwave or oven before combining with glaze as directed above. Serve warm.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  ~

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